China’s 26-Story Pig Skyscraper Set to Produce 1 Million Pigs Yearly | Environment

On the southern outskirts of Ezhou, a city in central China’s Hubei province, a giant apartment building faces the main road. But it’s not for office workers or families. With 26 floors it is by far the largest pig farm in the world, with a slaughter capacity of 1.2 million pigs a year.

This is China’s answer to its insatiable demand for pork, the country’s most popular animal protein.

The new skyscraper-sized farm began production in early October when the company behind the facility – Hubei Zhongxin Kaiwei Modern Farming – admitted its first 3,700 sows to the farm.

Zhongxin Kaiwei is a newcomer in pig industry and breeding. It started as a cement investor, with multiple cement factories in provinces such as Hubei and Henan. One of them, Hubei Xinshiji Cement, is close to the new pig farm.

The company said it originally planned to invest in convenience food manufacturing but changed its mind after a collapse in China’s cement and construction industries. Jin Lin, the company’s general manager, said the company saw modern agriculture as a promising industry and an opportunity to use its building materials to build pig farm.

Map of the location of the farm

According to statements on the company’s official WeChat account, the pig farm has two buildings. Behind the operational site, an identical, equal-scale building is nearing completion. When fully operational, they will provide a total area of ​​800,000 square meters of space, with a capacity for 650,000 animals.

The 4 billion yuan (£473 million) farm has controlled gas, temperature and ventilation conditions, with animals fed through more than 30,000 automatic feed points at the click of a button in a central control room.

A monitor showing pigs in the controlled environment of the 26-story farm in Ezhou, Hubei Province, China. Photography: Pantry

The company says the waste from the pigs will be treated and used to generate biogas, which can be used for power generation and water heating within the farm. Workers will have to undergo multiple rounds of disinfection and testing before being cleared to enter and will not be able to leave the site until their next break, reportedly once a week.

“It’s unfathomable,” a farmer in his 50s who lives in the village across the road from the farmhouse told the Guardian. He said he is concerned that the farm’s proximity could lead to an odor problem when it is fully operational.

“About 30 years ago, when I raised pigs, we only had two or three in the back sty. I’ve heard that pigs raised on these farms can be ready for sale in a matter of months, and in the past it would have taken about a year to raise one. But I think as technology advances, that’s going to be the trend in the future,” she said.

China has been trying to improve its pork production – it consumes about half of all pork in the world – after losing as many as 100 million pigs to the deadly swine disease African swine fever (ASF) amid 2018 and 2020.

The 26-story pig farm in Ezhou, Hubei province
The pig feed is brought to the farm on a conveyor system. Proponents of high-rise farms say they are a smarter way to operate and ease the pressure on the earth’s resources. Photography: Pantry

In a policy released in 2019, China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said it would allow the construction of high-rise cattle ranching facilities. An announcement welcomed by investors, including Kingkey Smart Agriculture, which reportedly said the high-rise production model is more efficient, bio-safe and environmentally friendly.

“Compared to traditional farming methods, high-rise pig farms are smarter, with a high level of automation and biosecurity. At the same time, it has the advantage of saving land resources,” said Zhu Zengyong, a professor at the Institute of Animal Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, who said their popularity increased after the outbreak of PSA.

In the southwestern province of Sichuan alone, 64 multi-story farms were planned or under construction as of 2020. higher accordingly,” added Zhu.

However, other experts have said that large-scale factory farming increases the likelihood of ever-larger disease outbreaks.

“Intensive facilities can reduce interactions between domestic and wild animals and their diseases, but if a disease gets inside it can break out between animals like wildfire,” said Matthew Hayek, assistant professor of environmental studies at New York University.

26-story pig farm in Ezhou, Hubei province, China
The farm complex is built near Ezhou housing and will eventually slaughter 1.2 million pigs each year. Photography: Pantry

“I’ve heard more reports of ‘biosafety’, ‘efficiency’ and ‘sustainability’. We hear the same narrative for US domestic structures. However, there is very little evidence that these intensive facilities actually have any of these benefits,” she said.

Dirk Pfeiffer, Full Professor at One Health at the City University of Hong Kong agrees and says: “The higher animal density, the higher risk of spreading and amplification of infectious pathogens, as well as the potential for mutation.

“The question probably even more important will be whether this type of production is consistent with the need to move towards reduced meat consumption, considering the seemingly unstoppable threat of devastating climate change,” he said.

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